The Private Military Company (PMC) will always find itself under attack from certain segments of the media. Whereas some of the attacks will be focussed on the fact that an under-siege government dared to use a PMC to assist them - instead of another agenda-driven government’s armed forces - a large amount of the attacks will be launched simply to discredit the PMC. But sadly, some of the media reports will be justified.
The fact of the matter is that some journalists are unable to cope with their responsibility of informing the public on what is happening. Instead, they prefer to focus on misinforming the public and thereby boost their own fragile egos. Fortunately, these journalists are in the minority but they taint everyone’s view of the PMC, regardless if it is deserved or not. Their actions overshadow those of the hard-working, ethical reporters of news. Furthermore, as they are quite prepared to accept money to write their false reports, they are the true mercenaries of the world.
From my own experience with a segment of the media that made it their mission to falsely discredit Executive Outcomes and myself on behalf of other paymasters, I discovered that to these “journalists” false reporting was, in essence, what gave them their raison d’être. Astonishingly, some were so-called intellectuals who wrote opinion pieces for which they were paid handsomely. In my mind, that constitutes fraud to the extreme.
Reading comments such as an “ex-apartheid soldier” or “ex-EO operative” or “ex-soldier” or “ex-policeman” simply entrenches my belief that some journalists cannot report objectively on matters that are of public interest. Yet, for some strange reason, they do not refer to “ex-Bush soldiers” or “ex-Blair” soldiers. Could this be part of their hypocritical make-up as far as South Africa is concerned?
These are the very people that give the media its bad name – something the hard-working, honest and ethical journalists ought to take action on – and take responsibility for. If not, the media will continue its slide into subjective reporting and promotion of agendas.
This does, however, not exonerate the PMC from any blame or make the PMC’s efforts any easier. These types of companies will always come under attack by misguided and irresponsible journalists and it remains the duty of the companies to keep their noses clean. But it remains a problem when journalists use insinuations and innuendo in their reporting – these grey areas are almost impossible to counter or even defend.
It is also the responsibility of the PMCs to ensure that the industry cleans up its act and gets rid of the wannabe-Rambos and their irresponsible actions. The military and law enforcement contracting industry has no place for ill-disciplined, alcohol and steroid-fuelled, untrained, disrespectful and poorly led men wearing too tight T-shirts and dark glasses. It is time that PMCs realise that they are guests in the contracting country and ought to behave in accordance to the laws of that country where they may be working. These companies should furthermore realise that the conduct of one can influence the entire company and even jeopardise a contract.
But, just like death and taxes, the media and the PMCs are here to stay. Both the media and these companies ought to accept that fact.
Whereas the relationship between the media and the PMC will always be a rocky one, there are some things that the PMC can do to smooth the road or at least ensure that it gets a fair press.
1. Appoint a designated media spokesperson who understands the media
2. Do not let other employees speak to the media
3. Find and work with ethical, responsible journalists – they do exist
4. When journalists colour their reporting with insinuations and innuendo, make every effort to determine who is paying them to do this – and expose them publicly – even if they are working for an intelligence service
5. Be pre-emptive with press releases
6. Do not employ people who will cause embarrassment to the company and whose past actions will continue to be used against the company
7. Strictly vet every employee, prior to employing him/her
8. Be as transparent as possible without divulging any client-sensitive information
9. When the media gets it wrong, make every effort to rectify the false perceptions that may be caused
10. Don’t lie or try to white-wash over serious events
11. Make sure all press releases are distributed to all media outlets
12. Do not give unnecessary interviews
13. When giving interviews, refrain from boasting
14. Be prepared for every interview – know as much as you can about the journalist who is about to interview you – even those things he/she does not want anyone to know about
15. Stick to the facts.
But, many of the “stories” fed to the media originate from within the intelligence services. It would serve the PMCs well to develop their contacts within the intelligence services to determine planned agendas and disinformation operations against them – and then to act pre-emptively. If necessary, these players within the intelligence services should also be exposed publicly. Whereas there exists an official secrets act in all nations, the acts are to safeguard the secrets of the state and not hide the nefarious actions of some of its members.